Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Monday, September 10, 2007

On the Plane for Reno

The backpack to the Sierras is over. It was grueling, exhilarating, and wonderful. Our itinerary was a bit different from previous trips. We have typically flown into San Jose where our hiking buddy Ron used to live. Since our last trip Ron and his wife Sharol have moved to the Olympic Peninsula of Washington- a much less convenient point of departure for the trip. So this year, we all convened in Reno on the Friday before Labor Day, rented a car, and headed off for the mountains.

Crossidius ater

The trip got off to a fine start. The plan was to drive down to Lee Vining where we would get our wilderness permit. We had a minor problem with the car and had to pull over briefly. While Ron and Leon looked at the car, I checked out the Rabbitbrush on the side of the road and promptly collected a fine specimen of longhorn beetle (Crossidius ater). It seemed a good omen. We arrived in Lee Vining to find that permits for hiking the next day had all been issued. We headed off for some nice views of Mono Lake, grabbed dinner and a motel room, and planned to go back the next morning.

Mono Lake

Saturday morning we got a permit that would allow us to begin a seven-day hike into Humphreys Basin via Piute Pass. Since we had the rest of Saturday to hang out, we visited the gold-mining ghost town at Bodie State Park. The town was a fascinating slice of the old West. It is deliberately being kept in a state of "arrested decay." We took a guided tour of the stamp mill (the facility where gold was extracted from the ore), a testament to the dangers of unregulated capitalism if ever I have seen one. The town’s architecture was like something straight out of a spaghetti western. I especially liked the graveyard.

The ghost town at Bodie

Old mining equipment

Arrested decay

The stamp mill

Weeping angel grave stone

We took the back road back into Lee Vining, and I did some fairly unproductive collecting along the way. We then drove south to June Lake, a woodsy town in the lower west slopes of the Sierras. We spent the night in a motel that caters to the fishing crowd, and had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant called the Eagle’s Roost. Appropriately for our last night of fresh produce for a week, the Cesar salad was superb there.

On Sunday Morning we were up early, breakfasted in June Lake, and went on to Bishop where we drove up to North Lake at about 9,300 feet to begin our hike. The day was sunny and warm (hot in Bishop). By mid afternoon, we would exceed 11,000 feet, an elevation that we would not go below again until the following Saturday.

The high country that awaits us

To be continued: The (ugh. My aching back. My feet hurt. I can’t breathe) first day of hiking.

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At 20:45, Anonymous rcwbiologist said...

Sounds like a great trip. Can't wait to see pictures from the high sierra.

At 21:34, Blogger burning silo said...

Sure does sound like a wonderful trip. Neat pictures of Bodie. I too can't wait to see photos from your backpacking trip.

At 23:54, Blogger Ur-spo said...

while you were away, there was no national disaster, unless you cound brittany spears.

At 08:23, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oooo...a ghost town that would be so exciting!! We missed you!

At 09:57, Blogger robin andrea said...

I love the eastern sierra. Absolutely one of the most beautiful places to hike. We've taken some very great trails outside of Bishop. I'm looking forward to your photos. It's been a long time since we've been there.

BTW-- Did it take a while for you to acclimate to the high altitude? I once had high altitude sickness up there, but it resolved after one night.

At 16:10, Anonymous Mark H said...

Are you kidding? 11000 feet? I have placed bets...the next episode will involve a story of a snowstorm while you slept! THAT must have been COLD nights. Yes, I love Bodie. Haunting place. What a fabulous trip.

At 12:17, Blogger rodger said...

You're making me homesick. I miss the Sierras; they were my playground.

At 09:06, Anonymous bev said...

Doug - I just came back to take a second look at your Bodie pics. You're quite right. The town looks very different and not nearly so desolate and eerie as it seemed when I was there in November 2008. Oh, and yes, that is a very fine longhorn beetle!


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